Transition in China? More Likely Than You Think

Issue Date October 2016
Volume 27
Issue 4
Page Numbers 5-20
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Relying on the historical record and research on transitions from authoritarian rule, this essay questions the continued prospect of one-party rule in China. The fall of one-party rule generally occurs in two phases: a prolonged period of decay, followed by rapid breakdown. Like other autocratic regimes, China’s Communist Party will find its survival imperiled as the country enters the upper middle-income, or “transition” zone, where most non-oil autocracies have historically fallen. Compounding this, China exhibits many of the key symptoms of regime decay. These factors suggest that regime breakdown will occur, and will likely proceed via “refolution”: limited initial reform, followed by revolution.

About the Author

Minxin Pei is Tom and Margot Pritzker ’72 Professor of Government and George R. Roberts Fellow at Claremont McKenna College. In January 2021, he joined the Board of Directors of the National Endowment for Democracy.

View all work by Minxin Pei